A year ago Ted Haggard agreed to counseling under the direction of New Life, the church he had led to mega-church status. This came in the wake of a scandal that rocked not only the New Life Church but the whole evangelical community and gave the enemies of the Lord plenty of ammunition to shoot at God's people.
Haggard occupied a position of great prominence. As well as being pastor of a mega church he was the President of the National Association of Evangelicals, in which position he got to represent a large section of the country's evangelicals before President Bush and other top political figures. Haggard also took a leading role in opposing so-called gay rights in Colorado, where he lived and ministered. Thus when it was discovered that he had carried on a three year relationship with a homosexual prostitute and had purchased illegal drugs from him, Haggard's ministry was in shreds.
His dabbling in drugs-if dabbling it was; he described it in similar terms to Bill Clinton who smoked but didn't inhale!-was wrong and was enough to put him out of the pulpit. However, all that paled into insignificance in comparison with the homosexual liaison. The hypocrisy of Haggard was evident not only in his campaigning against homosexuality while he was having an affair with a male prostitute but in the answers he gave to an interviewer at the 2004 NAE meeting in Denver. Asked if he believed in separation, Haggard replied that he did believe in personal separation and in separation from "other faith groups" but not from "born again believers." The hypocrisy was that, as his immoral affair shows, he did not practice personal separation. It was all a lie.
As I said, in the light of all this scandal, Ted Haggard stepped down from his pastorate. He was all contrite and willing to undergo counseling. Now, he has asked New Life to discontinue the counseling. They say that it is premature to stop now but he has made a unilateral declaration of independence on the issue and has called a halt. In other words, he is cured and ready to go.
That's the part that bothers me. Ted Haggard has to realize that his breach of the trust placed in him makes him ineligible for any further involvement in public ministry. If he has repented and been restored to fellowship with God, as I hope he has, he should quit thinking of rehabilitating himself in the eyes of the public and set about the arduous task of mending his personal relationships. He may in quiet, unassuming ways seek to use his hard experience to help others in need. But he needs to forsake all image-building, which was probably part of what got him into trouble in the first place.
New Life leaders have stated publicly that Mr. Haggard should go into secular employment and not seek to find a place in Christian ministry. They are right. He is wrong to cut himself loose from counseling. He would be even more wrong to pursue the dream he announced last year of raising financial support to pursue-wait for it-a counseling ministry! He can't wait to end his own counseling so he can start counseling others! If this sounds like madness, that's because it is madness.